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Focus Feeds Fright: How Cognition Affects Physiological Sensations

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answered 12:36 PM EST, Sat December 07, 2013
I had noticed that recently while trying to fall asleep at night, my breathing seems to affect the vibration or noise from the engine that's passing by. At first I thought I might have been imagining it. But unfortunately I think it might be really happening. I don't understand it, this never had happened before. Its given me real unhealthy anxiety. I'm embarrassed and humiliated, I feel handicapped in a way. I hope you can help. Thank you

Dr. Richard Schultz Says...

Hello and thank you for addressing your question to me.

Prior to appropriately responding to your inquiry, I will need some clarification.  You wrote that the anxiety you experienced while trying to fall asleep seemed to "affect the vibration or noise from the engine that's passing by."  Did you mean to say that changes in your breathing were having an impact on the engine (and I assume you mean a train or other vehicle) itself, on the vibrations or noises from the engine, or that the engine or noises therefrom were impacting your breathing.  I ask because the directionality of your perceptual experience will guide my reply to you.

In addition, perhaps you could take a few moments to answer the following questions for me:

1.  With regard to the "unhealthy anxiety" that resulted from this experience, please describe the anxious thoughts or bodily sensations you have been experiencing.  Describe any particular fears you've had about what this means about you, or about what will happen to you as a result of this, or about how others' views of you would be influenced as a result?

2.  You described feeling embarrassed, humliated and handicapped as a result of this experience.  Can you explain specific ways in which you perceive yourself to be handicapped?  Further, what about your experience of this phenomena leads you to feel embarrassed or humiliated.

3.  Finally, please let me know if you have any prior history of troubling anxiety, or struggles with any other mental health issues.

Thank you again for writing and I look forward to your elaboration.  Prior to giving you any useful feedback, it will be necessary for me to understand as accurately as possible what you actually experienced, and how it has impacted your thoughts, feelings and functioning.


Richard E. Schultz, Ph.D. 


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